December 2012 - Vol.  64

Who Needs a Life of Purpose?
by Sam Williamson

Ten years ago, I was on a plane heading for New York to give a presentation. The man next to me was a professor of public speaking at a major university.

Somewhat sheepishly, I asked for advice, “What is the key to great public speaking?”

After some preliminary comments, he said this: “At the beginning of World War II, when Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of England, he said, ‘I felt as though my whole life had prepared me for this moment.’”

“Sam,” he continued, “the best public speakers feel as though their entire lives have prepared them for this moment.”

His words pierced me more deeply than had any other past comment or deliberate insult.

I was devastated. I didn’t feel prepared for anything of significance.


My soul longs – and I believe every soul longs – for a purpose, for a deep meaning, to know that we matter. We long for something transcendent.

Yet I believe most of us fritter our lives away with little dreams. We eagerly await our next vacation or our next car. We squander our money – or our dreams – on the next new iPhone or matching shoes and purse.

We numb our hearts with nonsense.

I know I had. At the time of this airplane conversation, I was an executive at a software company. My disposable income allowed me ski trips out west and a large addition to my house. But it didn’t satisfy, and this conversation bared my soul naked to the inconsequential elements of a frivolous life.

Yes, I was a believer. I did believe Christ had died for me; I did pray; I did give money to the poor; I did serve. But somehow I wasn’t living the life designed for me. There was something in the universe I longed for but didn’t have.

The greatest sin

A short while after my devastating airplane conversation, I read a quote by Dorothy Sayers,

In hell it is called Discouragement and Despair; the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive merely because there is nothing for which it will die.
The quote did nothing to quiet my soul. I was haunted by the phrase, “[it] remains alive merely because there is nothing for which it will die.”

Yet this haunting awakened something. An inner compelling began to drive me. I wanted to live for something, even if I had to die for it.

The image of God

Early in scripture, God says, “Let us make man in our image after our likeness (Gen 1:26); and then – as if to reinforce through repetition – the next verse continues, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him.”

God is all glorious. The word “glory” means weightiness, significance, splendor, and matter. To be made in God’s image means we matter; that we were designed for lives of significance, glory and nobility.

And destiny

When God put Adam and Eve in the garden, he made them comrades in creation. He gave them a garden to nurture and a world to manage. In essence, God said to Adam and Eve, “I’ve brought you into creation at just the right moment, to use your creativity and skills to nurture life and order to the creation I made.”

Likewise, God gives us purpose and destiny. He brought us into the world for this moment. It is no accident that he made us male or female, that we live in the twenty-first century (instead of the seventeenth), that we live in our cities with our families and gifts and talents.

He brought us here – and now – for a purpose. The world has needs that only we can supply. There is something only we can do.


Oswald Chambers said,

It cannot be stated definitely what the call of God is to, because His call is to be in comradeship with Himself for His own purposes, and the test is to believe that God knows what He is after.
For some unfathomable reason, God has chosen to work through us. He could have done everything without us; instead he ennobles us to work with him, in comradeship with him, to bring his life and light to the world.

For some unfathomable reason, God calls us his friends, to share in his purpose, to be partners and comrades in an ultimate mission.

That is why we are here; and the test is to believe God knows what he is after.

© Copyright 2012, Beliefs of the Heart, Ltd. All rights reserved.

Sam Williamson grew up in Detroit, Michigan, USA. He is the son of a Presbyterian pastor and grandson of missionaries to China. He moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1975. He worked in London England from 1979 to 1982, helping to establish Antioch, a member community of the Sword of the Spirit. After about twenty-five years as an executive at a software company in Ann Arbor he sensed God call him to something new. He left the software company in 2008 and now speaks at men’s retreats, churches, and campus outreaches. His is married to Carla Williamson and they have four grown children and a grandson. He has a blog site,, and can be reached at 
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